National Geographic : 1954 May
680 W. Ouhdrt M1 r. National (;iiraplhic Stall Vientiane's Bicycle Parking Lot Can Always Find Room for One More Laos, with few automobiles, goes to market on two wheels. Some bikes have motors. Vientiane recently set up parking lots where attendants give riders numbered tickets, then stack the machines like cordwood. blocks, that the Khmers, ancestors of the present-day Cambodians, built many of their temples, terraces, walls, and bridges. It was even used as the core of some of the ornate shrines at the capital of Angkor and other centers of the Khmer kingdom. Through rice lands and open forested areas, I rode more than 100 miles southward along the main highway to Muang Ubon. Reach ing it, I suddenly felt as if I had arrived at a metropolis. To Catch a Train, You Take a Boat Muang Ubon, a busy market center and one of the larger eastern Thai towns, lies near the junction of the Si and Mun Rivers, two sizable streams that drain the greater part of eastern Thailand. Scores of sampans, barges, and ferries ply the broad span of joint rivers. While the town has grown mainly on one bank, the railway station lies on the opposite side of the stream. A new bridge is under construc tion across the broad water gap, but until it is completed one has to cross by boat. Despite all the river craft that clutter the water front, apparently there were not enough when we wanted to cross to get the twice weekly express train to Bangkok. Everybody seemed to be going to the train. Finally we crossed over, caught one of the decrepit, overworked buses, and got to the crowded station platform. Having come merely to see friends off, most of the throng stayed behind when the bell clanged and the train started moving on its 19-hour journey to Bangkok. In eastern Thailand, across the river from war, I had found no panic. People seemed confident that, if Viet Minh Communists crossed the Mekong, Thai troops could drive them back.